Lapis ISSN 2398-2969


Contributor(s): Lesa Thompson, Brendan Carmel


  • Arthritis is inflammation of a joint or joints. A more general definition is any damage to the joints. 
  • Cause: different forms of arthritis have different etiologies, eg joint stability (such as after ligament damage) or trauma (such as fractures) may be precursors to osteoarthritis. A bite wound to a joint may result in septic arthritis.
  • Signs: altered gait/posture, reluctance to move/exercise, urine scalding, inability to groom, behavioral changes.
  • Diagnosis: clinical examination, diagnostic imaging, clinical pathology, joint tap (arthrocentesis).
  • Treatment: correct underlying cause, if possible, administration of analgesia, including opioids, NSAIDs, corticosteroids.
  • Prognosis: good to guarded, depending on etiology.
  • Rabbits are experimental models for arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA)
  • A degenerative disease of articular cartilage resulting from excessive wear and tear.
  • Secondary inflammatory changes occur.
  • Rabbits are susceptible to osteoarthritis.
  • Degenerative joint disease (DJD) is alternative term.
  • Increased incidence with increasing age.
  • Incidence in pet rabbits not described.
  • Visceral, articular and peri-articular forms described.
  • An inflammatory arthropathy, with urate crystal deposition in joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis
  • A chronic inflammatory synovitis and arthritis, likely of auto-immune origin.

Presenting signs

  • Gait abnormalities.
  • Reluctance to move or exercise.
  • Hunched posture.
  • Urine scalding of perineum.
  • Reduced grooming and unkempt coat.
  • Lack of cecotrophy.
  • Behavioral changes.

Acute presentation

  • Sudden onset of lameness.
  • Traumatic.

Age predisposition

  • Generally an age-related disease; more commonly encountered in elderly rabbits.

Cost considerations

  • Routine investigation (examination, radiography) and treatment (anti-inflammatories) not significantly expensive.
  • Septic arthritis may involve significant laboratory costs, eg blood or joint culture.
  • Medication often required long-term.
  • Surgical repair of orthopedic conditions, eg ligament rupture, fracture.

Breed predisposition

  • Giant breeds may become arthritis at a younger age than smaller breeds.

Special risks

  • Obesity, due to extra strain on the joints.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Chiang E R, Ma H L, Wang J P et al (2016) Allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells in combination with hyaluronic acid for the treatment of osteoarthritis in rabbits. PloS one 11 (2), e0149835
  • Kaderli S, Viguier E, Watrelot-Virieux D et al (2015) Efficacy study of two novel hyaluronic acid-based formulations for viscosupplementation therapy in an early osteoarthrosic rabbit model. Europ J Pharmac Biopharm 96, 388-95
  • Fu X, Lin L, Zhang J et al (2009) Assessment of the Efficacy of Joint Lavage in Rabbits with Osteoarthritis of the Knee. J Orthopaedic Res 27 (1), 91-96 PubMed.
  • Badlani N, Inoue A, Healey R et al (2008) The protective effect of OP-1 on articular cartilage in the development of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 16 (5), 600-606 PubMed.
  • Boulocher C, Duclos M E, Arnault F et al (2008) Knee joint ultrasonography of the ACLT rabbit experimental model of osteoarthritis: relevance and effectiveness in detecting meniscal lesions. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 16 (4), 470-479 PubMed.
  • Eren A, Ugutmen E, Ozkan K et al (2008) Chondroprotective effect of salicylate and chloroquine in pyogenic septic arthritis. Advances in Therapy 25 (2), 133-142 PubMed.
  • Groeneboer S, Pastoureau P, Vignon E et al (2008) Cyclodextrin polysulphate protects articular cartilage in experimental lapine knee osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 16 (9), 986-993 PubMed.
  • Hayashi M, Muneta T, Ju W J et al (2008) Weekly intra-articular injections of bone morphogenetic protein-7 inhibits osteoarthritis progression. Arthritis Research & Therapy 10 (5), R118 PubMed.
  • Herrero-Beaumont G, Marcos M E, Sánchez-Pernaute O et al (2008) Effect of chondroitin sulphate in a rabbit model of atherosclerosis aggravated by chronic arthritis. Br J Pharmacol 154 (4), 843-851 PubMed.
  • Jackson J K, Higo T, Hunter W L et al (2008) Topoisomerase inhibitors as anti-arthritic agents. Inflammation Res 57 (3), 126-134 PubMed.
  • Largo R, Sánchez-Pernaute O, Marcos M E et al (2008) Chronic arthritis aggravates vascular lesions in rabbits with atherosclerosis associated with chronic inflammation. Arthritis and Rheumatism 58 (9), 2723-2734 PubMed.
  • Uchii M, Tamura T, Suda T et al (2008) Role of fibroblast growth factor 8 (FGF8) in animal models of osteoarthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy 10 (4), R90 PubMed.
  • Lo Y J, Sheu M T, Tsai W C et al (2007) Intra-articular injection of hyaluronate and indomethacin in rabbits with antigen-induced arthritis. Rheumatology International 27 (12), 1099-1111 PubMed.
  • Busti A J, Hooper J S, Amaya C J et al (2005) Effects of perioperative anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating therapy on surgical wound healing. Pharmacotherapy 25 (11), 1566-1591 PubMed.
  • Elmali N, Esenkaya I, Harma A et al (2005) Effect of resveratrol in experimental osteoarthritis in rabbits. Inflammation Research 54 (4), 158-162 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Keeble E (2006) Nervous and Musculoskeletal Disorders. In: Manual of Rabbit Medicine and Surgery. 2nd edn.  Eds: Meredith A & Flecknell P. BSAVA, Quedgeley, Gloucester. pp 103-116.
  • Deeb B J & Carpenter J W (2004) Neurologic and Musculoskeletal diseases. In: Ferrets, Rabbits, and Rodents: Clinical Medicine & Surgery. 2nd edn. Eds: Quesenberry K E & Carpenter J W.  Saunders, St Louis, Missouri. pp 203-210.
  • Harcourt-Brown F (2002) Neurological and Locomotor Disorders. In: Textbook of Rabbit Medicine. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford. pp 307-323.
  •  Stevens A, Lowe J S & Young B (2002) Skeletal System. In: Wheaters Basic Histopathology: A Colour Atlas and Text. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh. pp 258-267.
  • Doxey D L (1983) The Locomotor System, I: Bones, Joints and Synovial Fluid. In: Clinical Pathology & Diagnostic Procedures. 2nd edn. Baillière Tindall, Eastbourne, East Sussex. pp 211-228.